The Decision

The ultimate family van: Hiace, Starex or Carnival

Help our letter sender decide

Hi, Botchi!

I love Top Gear Philippines so much! I visit your website everyday to read your articles and the latest news.

I am a dad and I am planning to buy a full-sized van for the family. I have a wife and three kids. But I can't decided which is better between the Hyundai Grand Starex VGT, HVX and the Toyota Super Grandia. I have tried searching a number of forums, including Top Gear's, and almost everyone said it's a very tough comparo.

I will appreciate your answer to my letter and I hope you can help.

More power to Top Gear!

Sincerely yours, 

Anton Gutierrez

Hi, Anton!

Thanks for the kind words. I'm sure it's tough being a dad and putting aside your four-wheeled desires while opting for a more reasonable, family-oriented vehicle.

I told myself I'm not getting married and won't have kids until I get my own project car running perfectly with 500hp, plus two more sports cars making at least 500hp each as well! That’s going to be tough! Kidding aside, here's what I think about your options.

Toyota Hiace Super Grandia. This is a great and comfortable van. It's roomy inside and it's tough as nails. It's as solid as one can expect of any Toyota vehicle, with a seating capacity akin to that of a minibus. The ride is surprisingly sporty and firm for a van, with good body control and steering response. My only problem with it is that it is grossly underpowered. In other markets, you can get a Grandia with the 3.0-liter D4-D engine found in the Hilux pickup truck and the Fortuner sport-utility vehicle. It delivers 164hp and 343Nm of torque. That would be a much better engine for the Grandia, which makes do locally with a 2.5-liter D4-D with an output of only 102hp and 260Nm of torque. You'll want all the extra horses when going up a mountain path like Baguio's Marcos Highway, or when overtaking a bus or a truck. Whether you drive fast or not, or whether you’ll be making use of the added power or not, it's always handy to have that in your arsenal. This is why despite the Grandia’s strengths, I wouldn't recommend it.


Hyundai Starex VGT. Now, this is THE van to look at. It's very car-like to drive, eclipsed only by the Kia Carnival LWB. It has probably the most versatile interior, thanks to the sliding seats. It's close to perfect as Asian vans go, with price being the only detriment to its appeal. It is pricey. Aside from that, there's nothing NOT to like in the Starex. Lastly, the Starex has 174hp and 390nm of torque. That's power!

Kia Carnival EX LWB. You don't see much of this around but it's a very good option, cheaper than the Starex. It feels more like an American mini-van, despite lacking the same polish as the Starex. It's also more car-like to drive but the interior isn't as versatile and as that of the Hyundai’s van. Still, I'd consider and recommend this one easily over the Toyota. It's a great van, and the engine's also mightily impressive! As a basic of comparison, the Kia makes 160hp and 340nm of torque. Not as good as the Starex, but a world away from the Super Grandia.

Hope this helps. Good luck and make sure your boys start reading Top Gear early on to get them hooked on cars! God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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